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The Learning Center Fund: Program making great strides in a variety of locations

By Wendy Pollitzer

The Learning Center Fund is growing exponentially throughout the county, and its greatest reward is a collective assertion from parents, students, teachers and administrators that the program is working for a diverse population of students. In fact, The Learning Center Fund is now serving over 70 children; and, it’s just the beginning of, what could be, the greatest pendulum swing of scholastic success in Beaufort County.

All too often, children who possess an alternative to the verbal learning style get frustrated with mainstream teaching methods and abandon their will to learn. Students become apathetic; but, it’s not their fault. They just learn differently than most. The misunderstanding begins when many people can’t figure out why an intelligent person can’t read at their expected level. The mistreating begins when students are simply encouraged to ‘try harder.’

The Learning Center Fund offers students the chance to fully engage in a meaningful learning process, effectively utilize their distinctive learning styles and productively pursue ongoing academic achievement. And most importantly, The Learning Center is available to every child in Beaufort County at a variety of locations: Bridges Preparatory School, the Boys and Girls Club, St. Peter’s Catholic School, Penn Center, AMIkids, Saint John Paul II Catholic High School and soon Holy Trinity Classical Christian School. Students are invited to participate at any of these locations, regardless of which school they presently attend in Beaufort County. And, The Learning Center Fund works closely with the Beaufort County School District to identify children in need of assistance.

So how did the program get started and how do parents and teachers get more information if they know a student who may benefit from The Learning Center?

The Learning Center Fund, Inc. is a specific fund established through the Coastal Community Foundation.  The fund was established by its board in order to distribute grants to Beaufort County nonprofit organizations working directly with area students.  The ultimate goal of TLC is to make resources available to children who learn differently so that they can embrace education with enthusiasm and confidence both in and beyond the classroom.

To understand students who learn differently is to understand educational research and the practice of knowing the whole child as a learner.  Research and understanding dictates the need to individualize student learning, wherein educators recognize and build upon a student’s strengths while simultaneously providing remediation and support for areas of weakness.  Based on this knowledge and best practice, The Learning Center recognizes that basically all children can be identified as learning differently-that is what makes each student an individual.

The CCF granted funding to each program mentioned above, which were approved by The Learning Center Fund Board, consisting of Malcolm Goodridge, Founder, Charles Kresch, past President of the Beaufort County Board of Education and David House, Board member of Beaufort Memorial Hospital.  Each program qualifies based on specific programming offered at each school. For example, Bridges Preparatory School employs a full time Learning Coach, who develops specific qualifying criteria and procedures for their school-based intervention and advancement team. The Learning Coach, Laura McAlhaney, monitors progress and provides explicit instruction throughout the year.

“This would not have been possible without the partnership provided though the grant with The Learning Center Fund, Inc. Bridges programming has touched the academic and emotional lives of 30 plus learners by emphasizing the whole child’s success within Bridges learning community,” explains McAlhaney.

Joe Benning, Principal at St. Peter’s Catholic School agrees, “We’ve already helped 20 kids here at the school. Our teachers, Mrs. Kessel and Mrs. Pesavento, have done a great job.”

These teachers are seeing improvements as well. And the bottom line — test scores.

“The students have made great gains in their reading ability. I can see positive results from 100 percent of the participating students in each of three standardized tests that have been administered this year,” explains Mrs. Kessel.

Ruby Jackson, The Learning Center Coach at Penn Center, echoes these remarks, “We did a survey of students and asked if they are doing better at school. 100% of them said yes. I can see differences, not only academically, but in their attitudes as well. The extra attention is helping their self-esteem, which is necessary for future success.”

Walter Mack, former Executive Director of Penn Center, adds, “It’s a blessing The Learning Center is available in this rural area. These kids had nowhere else to go before. Now they have a place to get the attention they need to succeed.”

For more information about The Learning Center Fund, to donate to the endowment or to inquire about a grant application, please contact Edna Davis at edna@coastalcommunityfoundation.org or call 843-379-3400.

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